Remain grounded even while you seek spiritual awareness, for spiritual awareness will do no good if it is not grounded in reality. The reality of life on Earth is your true reality, where you have come to work on and evolve the self. The reality of spiritual awareness is equally important but only in that it be used to enhance the work of the life you are in. So keep a good balance as you seek to enhance yourself in both material and spiritual ways. Let one work with the other to both teach and advance you and let neither one nor the other dominate.
All beings are but seeds in the beginning, plucked from the greater Universe and planted to become something more, given life, hope, destiny, granted possibility. Circumstances occur and lives are plucked again and again, uprooted, transplanted, things happen to interrupt, to direct or guide a life. Eventually, each being who was once a seed must take control and journey on as an individual, making choices and owning their own journey, without blaming others for their transgressions, acknowledging their own life lived in its totality, no longer a seed but a fully blossomed Self. That is the challenge of life, to fully own it as the meaningful journey that it is, in its totality.
My Aunt Virginia, who died in 2012, left me her important papers, a partially written memoir, letters, jottings, and diary entries, which she had severely edited by slicing them out of her journals with a sharp knife, leaving behind only what she wanted posterity to see.
During our recent move to Virginia I came across the box where I had stored her stuff since her death and decided it was time to sort through it. What I found has been a treasure trove of family history, as well as an introduction to a complicated, fiercely intelligent, strikingly independent and delightful young woman.
I knew Virginia intimately my whole life as my aunt, my Godmother, and my spiritual mother, but as I poured over what she chose to leave behind I learned what she had never shared; her deepest struggles to figure out life, to live and love to the fullest, to use and be respected for her intellect. She was determined to not just do what was expected, to marry the first appropriate guy that came along with a decent job. She wanted true love, a soulmate, and she stuck to her guns about it, taking a unique stance for a young woman growing up in the 1920s and 30s, delaying marriage until it was right, in spite of the many attempts to marry her off.
She did meet her true soulmate when she was 30, a vibrant, brilliant young graphic designer who was making a name for himself in the New York graphic design world of 1950. It was a love affair that swept them both off their feet and into a whirlwind of intense love, emotion, and deep spiritual connection. He proposed to her on the first night they met and she accepted, though she was inclined to take things a bit slower than he. It turned out he was right to want to speed things up because it all ended tragically when he died suddenly and unexpectedly two months after they met, on the operating table during an emergency appendectomy of an allergic reaction to an anesthetic.
His death left her desolate, but it didn’t stop her; she sought to recapture that love and intense connection in another, and another. She gained insight and wisdom the hard way, by living and learning, by looking deep into her yearning heart and by using her keen mind. She once said, “It seems that you just keep on and that’s not even so bad, so long as you keep struggling!” The “struggle” she refers to is the soul’s yearning for something that only the heart will recognize when it finally comes around.
Virginia was born in 1919 and lived through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II. She lived most of her life in New York City, though she loved the countryside. When she was growing up the family always had a house elsewhere to venture to on weekends and during the summer months, a shack on the beach at Rocky Point, a farmhouse in Orange county, and later a permanent home in Dutchess County.
She held various positions in publishing, having worked at Harper’s Magazine, McGraw-Hill and the World Press Review. She was active in international relations during World War II, working at the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA), The United Nations Association, and for Professor and Legal Scholar Clyde Eagleton at NYU’s Graduate School of International Affairs during the founding of the United Nations.
Virginia was an insatiable reader, her library was vast and all-encompassing. She found something of interest in every book she ever read and every person she ever met. A prolific letter writer, she maintained lifelong friendships with several international pen pals, from her teen years until her death, or theirs, many of whom she never met in person. And, always, she aspired to being a “real” writer, like many of the great writers she met during her years in publishing.
Recently, Chuck wrote a blog that included insight into one of our most intriguing human psychological traits, one that we all innately possess, that of projection, and the power we have within us to use the mirror of self-reflection to achieve a higher state of self-realization, especially by confronting our feelings of self-importance.
He wrote: We begin by assuming responsibility for the fact that we, as individuals, reflect the reality we see without. Although it may be difficult to face this shadow truth, it is also quite empowering. You can read the whole blog here.
Among my aunt’s papers I found more than a few pieces that directly confronted her own struggles with this most common trait, the power of projection in the search for a soulmate. As Chuck wrote in Soulmate 101: At the psychological, or spiritual dimension, the soul mediates our spirit’s longing for itself in matter. The root of desire is this attractive force of spirit seeking appropriate matter to realize itself, or to manifest as a physical reality. To accomplish this, soul uses the psychological mechanism of projection.
Virginia was a jazz aficionado. As she wrote when she went to her first jazz concert at Town Hall in 1942: “I was struck dumb. I felt exactly as though I had been slugged with a baseball bat… I had come home. This was the music I had longed for, without knowing it. I knew it at once, though.” After that she could not get enough of jazz. She went to as many concerts as she could, read as many books on the subject as she could find, scoured the record stores for albums, learning as much as she could about this new music that was, as she wrote, “something to believe in.”
The following example of soulmate projection and reconciliation was written when Virginia was 38. She was facing the end of one soulmate projection and was soon to meet another soulmate, her husband-to-be, Max Kaminsky. Max was a well known jazz trumpeter and cornetist and she had been one of his biggest fans, meeting him shortly after that first concert she went to in 1942. They lost contact for many years then met again when she was 39 and he was 50. Eventually, they married and wrote My Life in Jazz together, a memoir of his long career as a jazz musician. Their marriage was intense and loving, and it lasted until Max’s death in 1994, the day before his 86th birthday. Here is Virginia’s reflection:
August 9, 1957
“Dad was talking tonight about how much the old-time performers gave of themselves—and it suddenly struck me—more forcibly than ever before in my life—how little I give of myself.
This is one of my worst blocks—I noticed it in myself in the car tonight with the two women [whom she frequently rode from the city with on weekends to visit the family farm in Dutchess County]—all they really want is pleasantness. I used to be so touchy, thinking that if I gave of myself they would have a power over me—is that it— or was it that I expected so much of them that when they misunderstood I became hurt, disappointed and offended.
But it’s a prison—one I’ve made all by myself. I’m a secretary because I act like one—goddammit—a stuffed shirt. What I have to get thru my thick head is that I am free-free-free, just as free as I choose to be and that it’s not those “other” people who are holding me back—it’s me.
I don’t have to believe in the role Jacques [the man she was in love with at the time] has assigned to me. I am perfectly free to love him if I choose—and in that way it’s none of his business—as long as I don’t, overtly or insidiously, ask for his love in return. That’s the counter, [the] balance—you are free just so long and in proportion to how little you try to exact from others.”
In this piece, my aunt reflects beautifully on herself, coming to a deeper realization that she is responsible for how she feels and views the world. In her analysis, she fully owns her own part in the unfolding of her life, deciding that she can choose as she pleases, as long as she doesn’t take what is not freely given, even energetically.
Here she breaks the mirror of her own self-reflection, withdrawing her projection and owning her own inner soulmate, preparing to live it in her physical life. In fact, it was a pivotal moment; without her even knowing it, she was preparing to enter a new reality, opening the way for further true self-realization. And as we know, she did meet her true soulmate, Max, shortly after this, perhaps because she was finally ready.
At the time, she held a limiting belief about herself, that she was only a secretary. Shortly after this, her papers reveal, she decided to give more of herself and volunteered to read to the blind. She ended up as a volunteer reader for many years, reading to law students, to college and high school students, when called upon. But the actual truth is that she grew far beyond the secretary self that she so bemoaned, eventually becoming the senior editor at Harper’s Magazine. I used to see her name on the masthead, third one down from the top, after the editor-in-chief and the managing editor. And she did become the writer she had always yearned to be.
Having opened the box containing my aunt’s things and discovering what she valued and chose to pass on, I too ask myself, do I give enough? Do I do enough? Am I kind enough?
Do any of us give enough? Are any of us kind enough? How much do we hold ourselves back because of our limiting beliefs, because of our entrenched defenses, our sense of entitlement, our regrets or resentments? Why are we so offended all the time?
I thank my aunt for the little bits she left behind, modest and humble in their number yet full of profound insight into a woman’s struggle to find her place in the world, and to matter.
Thoughts can kill. Thoughts, as illusions, as ideas, can manifest physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; killing, maiming, destroying. Spoken repeatedly, they become beliefs, hard facts, known truths. But what if they were wrong to begin with, untrue words that found a home in your mind and body, festering, making you sick, tired, believing yourself to be this or that, actually changing how you look on the outside and poisoning you on the inside? Wrong thoughts are dangerous! The only antidote? New thoughts!
Do psychic surgery. Excise old thoughts, illusions, ideas and let in some fresh new positive thoughts. Spoken repeatedly, these new positive thoughts can manifest as easily as the old once did. Trust the power of the human mind and spirit to heal itself in the power of thought. That is no illusion! You’ve already proven it to yourself in the power of negativity. Now prove it in the power of positivity. All things CAN change. Make every thought a healing thought and every breath a healing breath.
If we peek inside one single cell in our body we discover a self-contained universe of differentiated parts, working in unison to maintain the life of that single cell. Thirty-seven-trillion of these micro-universe cells coordinate to form a single human body. The health and well being of each of those individual cells contributes to the overall health and well being of the entire human body.
The Earth, Gaia, has its own biological body, of which humans, as cells, comprise a specialized unit. I would propose that on a macro-level the human race, as a whole, forms the frontal cortex of Gaia’s brain. In simple terms, the human race is Gaia’s ego consciousness center, the youngest part of the brain, that which is associated with the ability to override instinct and act instead with free will and reason.
Thus, when we speak of global warming as a function of human decision making, Gaia’s frontal cortex appears to be acting contrary to its overall survival needs. In fact, to carry the analogy further, the more ancient part of Gaia’s brain, the limbic system—home of powerful instinct and emotion—can be said to be releasing its destructive reaction toward human behavior in the storms, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and diseases that punctuate our time.
Just as the frontal cortex does not fully come on line in humans until about age 25, the collective human frontal cortex is clearly in its early adolescence, with narcissistic and self-serving behaviors in control of some of its most vital decision making. This reality is wholly reflected in current world politics where leadership is completely self serving, unable to align with both truth and the greater survival needs of the world as a whole.
The good news: as individual cells of the collective human race, we are each in a position to address and impact the very issues confronting our greater world. The operative analogy here: As within, so without.
We begin by assuming responsibility for the fact that we, as individuals, reflect the reality we see without. Although it may be difficult to face this shadow truth, it is also quite empowering. If I can face, and change within myself, the same power dynamics now being acted out in the world, I contribute toward the maturation of Gaia’s frontal cortex. This truly is a healing action.
Turn inward to your own inner universe with new awareness. Recognize that consciousness is the psyche’s youngest acquisition. Whereas human functioning was, for eons, directed by its instinctive, pre-programmed limbic system, consciousness—for better or for worse—can now consult Google and make its own decisions! Furthermore, consciousness can indulge its desires at any time, not just when its stomach says it’s time to eat, or its hormones say it’s time to mate. Consciousness also has the ability to reflect upon itself and question its real motives, i.e., really be honest with itself.
However, this ability to reflect has its dense physical trappings. Consciousness also likes to look in the mirror and play dress up with life. The shamans call this tendency self-reflection, which, from their experience, absorbs the lion’s share of human motivation and energy. We are currently seeing such a caricature of self-reflection in the behavior of our leader, but can we see it in ourselves?
Every one of us has the responsibility to face our own obsession with the presentation of self in everyday life, as glaringly mirrored in our fanciful leader. I am reminded incessantly of this fact by our male cardinal who continues to peck away daily at every window and car mirror at our home. Can we ever get to life beyond this level of self-reflection?!
For ego to rise above its own reflection and unholy alliance with the appetites of its limbic system, it must find its way to right action. Right action is action based on reason that transcends the trappings of the Me-Me-Me self. Right action issues from a higher spirit, one that considers the true needs of the whole, not just the ego self.
That spirit resides within the heart, but its voice is largely obscured by the ego self’s physical obsessions. Nonetheless, the ego has many opportunities to channel its higher spirit, as it must suffer its failures and defeats in this life. Ego defeats result in deflation and sobriety, where we then have the opportunity to really reflect and then choose or acquiesce to right action, the insinuation of the spirit.
We have, as well, the ability to invoke the help of our spirit by simply asking. When we set an intent, say a prayer, or ask for help, we are directly soliciting the guidance and support of spirit. The response we get might send us down quite a serpentine path, but it’s also likely to be the path that will best mold our ego to do right action.
Take for instance the most recent presidential election, which forestalled the coming to power of the matriarchy. The more inclusive values of the matriarchy would seem to be the healing balm needed in our time, and perhaps it ultimately will be, but for now we must take the serpentine path before us and deal with what we have delivered ourselves: the ultimate patriarchal trickster. And so, spirit might have had a hand here; showing us that to properly be ready to receive the matriarchy, we must first crack the mirror of our own self-reflection. Without first mastering this challenge, we’d likely just be transferring our childish neediness to mommy!
Be empowered within the walls of your individual cell self. Be compassionate with your ego self’s developmental process. As Gaia’s ego brain, we have a long way to go, but if we can take responsibility for our own leadership role, and reach out to spirit with humility, the power of the small is sure to manifest our healing intent.